Sonos Period 300 Dolby Atmos speaker assessment: Put together for glory

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You solely have two ears, however you don’t hear solely in stereo. Oh, you may tattoo “L” and “R” on these fleshy receivers, get away the protractor, and align your posture completely with a sound supply. Your localization remains to be working in three dimensions. Reflecting on these reflections, Santa Barbara-based wi-fi sound system firm Sonos got down to develop a speaker that acknowledged but defied the tyranny of two-channel. Previewed on the firm’s headquarters in February, then formally introduced March 7, the Period 300 is the corporate’s first related speaker purpose-built from the bottom up for Dolby Atmos-powered multidirectional audio. 

This $449 sensible speaker, on sale March 28, performs stereo content material with out upmixing, conveying the artist’s intention. However its six positional drivers yearn for extra immersive mixes. With a very authentic acoustic design, it’s not a refresh. However is that refreshing? Let’s take a look at whether or not a sideways hourglass-shaped speaker’s time has come.

The construct

Distinctive just isn’t all the time utilitarian. However within the case of the Period 300’s cinched chassis, accessible in matte white or black, every thing is intentionally calibrated to make the audio presentation stand out simply as a lot because the speaker’s physique does. Not like the concurrently launched Period 100, which attracts an apparent lineage from the Sonos One, the 9.85 lb. Period 300 has no precedent. Its 6.30 x 10.14 x 7.28 inches (HWD) current themselves as an oval when dealing with ahead, however a more in-depth look from any lateral angle reveals the sideways cylinder’s distinctive high-waisted type. Not everyone will find it irresistible, nevertheless it’s extra compact and fewer concave than photos would possibly painting.

On the highest of the Period 300 runs the “trough,” a shallow capacitive canal you may swipe to alter the quantity. This tactile management is intuitive to seek out with only a finger. Towards the entrance, you’ll discover equally touch-sensitive Play/Pause, Rewind, and Ahead icons. Towards the center, a speech bubble lets you quickly deactivate your voice assistant of selection (Sonos Voice Management or Amazon Alexa). If you wish to take privateness a step ahead, a {hardware} change on the again of the speaker cuts all energy to the microphone. The again of the speaker can also be the place you’ll discover the Bluetooth pairing button, a socket for the 90-degree flush-fit energy cable, and a USB-C port. 

Sure, I stated Bluetooth pairing button. Whereas spatial audio is getting many of the fanfare for the Period 300, the acceptance that Bluetooth not undermines however fairly underpins the habits and houses of many trendy listeners is equally revolutionary for Sonos. So now Bluetooth 5.0 (with SBC and AAC codecs) has migrated from the corporate’s moveable, rechargeable Transfer and Roam audio system into its multiroom line alongside the wi-fi networking that has lengthy fashioned the inspiration of the Sonos multiroom audio imaginative and prescient. On this case, it’s Wi-Fi 6 that’s supported, making certain the Period 300 can place properly together with your new high-speed router for 4K streaming and all of the accompanying high-resolution audio, and many others.

That closing noteworthy half, the USB-C port, lets you join an exterior audio supply—whether or not that’s a CD participant, laptop computer, cassette deck, or preamp-equipped turntable with a patch cable—by way of a $19 dongle that includes a 3.5mm line-in jack. A costlier $39 adapter contains that very same aux enter alongside an Ethernet jack in the event you want to hardwire your audio system into your community. This speaker could also be meant primarily for spatial’s sonic revolution, nevertheless it’ll play properly with an LP’s revolutions per minute, too. It’s value noting that as a result of the dongle is introducing analog-to-digital conversion, it could additionally introduce minor sign delay.

All that and we’ve barely scratched the floor as a result of beneath the floor is the place the vast majority of the modern elements lie. Inside every Period 300 are 4 tweeters (one forward-firing, two side-firing, one up-firing), and two woofers (left/proper). Every customized driver is powered by a devoted class-D amplifier and paired with a customized waveguide to assist direct and proper its response for readability. The explanation the Period 300’s management panel is pushed ahead? It’s due to the place the upward-facing driver’s directional horn wanted to be to disperse the optimum ceiling reflection of Atmos top results.  

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As you may see, lots went into the Period 300. And in addition much less. Sustainability and repairability performed equal components within the speaker’s design, so to reduce waste, the Period 300 has much less virgin plastic. The outside’s particular shade of white, which differs from older product, is a results of together with 40% post-consumer plastic. As well as, the speaker’s building makes use of far much less glue; in all places potential, screws (stamped with a delicate “Sonos” across the head) had been used as an alternative to make repairs simpler and, alongside extra replaceable grilles to circuitry, promote merchandise that final. The Period 300 even consumes much less vitality whereas idle than earlier audio system (lower than 2 watts). And the packaging is 100% recyclable (although it’s so thoughtfully designed, with its built-in locking mechanism, you’ll need to maintain onto it if that you must transfer/retailer your audio system). All that is in service of the Sonos roadmap to be carbon impartial by 2030 and internet zero by 2040.

Sonos Era 300 disassembled screws
It could be tough to see, however the head of every screw within the extra repairable Period 300 speaker is stamped “SONOS.” Tony Ware

The setup

Plug it in. Anticipate the blinking mild. Open the Sonos S2 app (accessible for iOS and Android). Create an account. Add in your Wi-Fi community password. To not belittle the method, nevertheless it’s tremendous easy whether or not you’ve arrange a Sonos product earlier than or not. And when you have, it’s that a lot simpler. Add the Period 300 to an current system or set up a brand new one. Whether or not you need to use one standalone Period 300, create a stereo pair, or group two as encompass channels for a Sonos Arc or Sonos Beam (Gen. 2) soundbar, all of it takes little greater than a click on—a guided one at that because the app is kind of intuitive. 

As soon as the Period 300 is added to a system, you may activate Trueplay, which makes use of speaker-generated impulses and your smartphone’s microphone to Fast Tune the {hardware} to your room—a beforehand iOS-only function now prolonged to Android. You may as well entry Treble and Bass sliders, in addition to a Peak channel adjustment. It’s value noting that you just gained’t have entry to Bluetooth pairing till after you’ve carried out the Wi-Fi community setup, however as soon as that’s carried out, you may run each protocols on the similar time (in any case, you don’t need to give your Wi-Fi password to each customer with songs to share).

The larger consideration for the Period 300, extra so than different Sonos audio system, is bodily placement. Sonos affords tips you can learn later, so be at liberty to skip a pair paragraphs. However if you need a abstract to know whether or not spatial is true to your house: Due to these side-and up-firing drivers, it’s really useful to position an Period 300 speaker on a floor with 8 inches of clearance on either side, and a pair of toes clearance above it. These numbers are a place to begin that ought to be mixed with widespread sense, nonetheless. An enclosed house just isn’t optimum (even when the highest shelf is 3 toes from the highest of the Period 300). Nor are 20-foot ceilings. 

In the event you’re utilizing two Period 300 audio system as a stereo pair, you would possibly need to strive extra conventional candy spot guidelines, with the audio system 7-9 toes aside and the place you sit an equal distance from every, forming a triangle. Nonetheless, Sonos claims the Period 300 is off-axis forgiving. And suppose you’re utilizing two Period 300 audio system as L/R encompass channels. In that case, you need every about 5 toes off the place you sit whereas contemplating that 8-inch facet clearance rule, plus retaining an inch or two between the audio system and a rear wall (Sonos produces each finish-matched stands and wall mounts for minimizing vibration/positioning reflection).

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Additionally of significance is your supply. You’ll be able to stereo stream music from dozens and dozens of providers by the Sonos app or ship it on to the Period 300 by way of lossless Apple AirPlay 2 and TIDAL Join or lossy Spotify Join. If you need better-than-CD high quality (24-bit/48kHz), that you must subscribe to both Qobuz or Amazon Music Limitless. 

To benefit from the spacious contours of multidimensional music, nonetheless, your choices usually are not equally broad. You could have solely two decisions: Amazon Music or Apple Music (following a March 28 firmware replace). Plus, to be correctly decoded on the speaker, the tracks should play by the Sonos app. Sadly, the app has no spatial filter or flags, so you may both preview a couple of seconds of songs to see if an Atmos label pops up or make a conveniently labeled and arranged playlist in one of many native apps, then find it by the Sonos one. It’s not as elegant a course of as Apple Music on a HomePod by way of AirPlay, one and carried out, however the finish outcomes with a well-mixed album are definitely worth the problem.

Sonos Era 300 speaker without grill or motherboard
Don’t fear, the retail audio system are not any meeting required. That is simply neat. Tony Ware

The sound

I’ve spent per week with two Period 300 audio system, taking part in with one standalone, in addition to each in stereo and grouped with an Arc and Sonos Sub to type a 7.1.4 encompass system (when you have two Subs, you may even go 7.2.4). In that brief interval, my preliminary impressions on the {hardware}—which will probably be up to date over the approaching week as extra time is spent placing the Period 300 up in opposition to audio system just like the Apple HomePod (2nd era) and wi-fi encompass methods such because the Sennheiser AMBEO Plus—have been nothing however constructive.

For starters, nonetheless, let’s put the Period 300 in context with the Sonos lineup. The 300 was introduced together with the Period 100 (which we’ve completely reviewed right here)—a “remastering” of the Sonos One which provides two angled tweeters and a bigger woofer into a well-recognized cylindrical type issue. And the Period 100 could set a brand new normal for a compact stereo related speaker. Nonetheless, it could’t come near the expertise that’s the Period 300.

I’ve additionally had the chance to take heed to the $549 Sonos 5 up to now, each standalone and in a stereo pair. With its three high-excursion woofers (and three tweeters), the 5 nonetheless outputs extra punch than the Period 300. Concerning soundstage, nonetheless, the Period 300’s directional treble provides expansiveness alongside expressiveness. The 5 has extra drive and finesse, as every speaker has six forward-facing drivers, however the Period 300’s array wins in total width.

Now, let’s put me in context. I’ve been taking part in with audio encompass sound codecs for nearly 20 years. SACD, DVD-Audio, DualDisc, HD DVD, Blu-ray, ISOs—like Pokémon, I collected all of them. I secured my justifiable share of speaker wires alongside the baseboards and underneath carpets for five.1 methods. What I like about Dolby Atmos spatial audio and the Period 300 is that I not hear the gaps between elements that would simply creep in, whether or not due to a gimmicky combine or poorly calibrated system. 

Take the observe “No Purpose” by the Chemical Brothers—talked about in passing throughout a February presentation by Sonos Sound Expertise Chief (and legendary combine engineer) Giles Martin as an Atmos session that elicited speedy elation from the artist when performed again within the studio on a prototype Period 300. There’s a capability on this pairing of {hardware} and encoding to have discrete components stay in movement with out the potential disconnect from channel hopping. The intro to “No Purpose” begins as diffuse trills and fills till it lastly coalesces right into a extra centralized martial rhythm earlier than fanning out once more in waves of whoops and puddles of reverb, stomping up percussive splatter.  

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Performed again on only one Period 300, the track is a day-glow procession, with plentiful although barely unfastened low-end. Pair two Period 300s, and every thing is magnified—extra sprawling however no much less anchored. The inward-facing channels are digitally deemphasized to keep away from a shouty heart picture. The sound by no means reaches totally behind you, nevertheless it flanks you convincingly.

Turning to a regular stereo observe like Large Assault’s “Angel,” there’s apparent processing, a Sonos saturation, nevertheless it maintains the honesty of the buoyantly menacing bassline. No, it’s not so articulate it should persuade me to surrender the KEF LS50 Wi-fi II and KC62 subwoofer. However It’s additionally not likely truthful to check an $898 pair of audio system to a $4,298 listening station. The KEF equipment is for an audiophile that wishes to sequester with previous acquaintances, whereas the Period 300 is for anyone that vibes off of creating new buddies. It’s an attainable, out-of-the-box wow issue that’s welcoming for everyone. An effective way to have a celebration or take a look at a scorching producer’s lewk. That doesn’t imply you may’t fine-tune the response, nonetheless. 

Combine the Sonos Sub with the Period 300, which you are able to do with one or two audio system, and the midrange opens up noticeably. Handing off the bass opens the Period 300’s headroom and does what a well-integrated Sub ought to do: refines fairly than merely reinforces. It’d initially really feel that the bass amount dips, however actually what’s occurred is all of the stray resonance has been corralled, and the sense of separation elevated. You could want thick kick, whereas I like issues rather less congested. This isn’t one thing you are able to do with the HomePod, as an example, which may get surprisingly rumbly.

The gradients fill in even additional with the Period 300s as encompass audio system with the Arc. Tethered by way of eARC to a TV related to an Apple TV, the Arc can obtain spatial audio immediately from Apple Music and render essentially the most immersive expression of any observe. Are you going to be dissatisfied at occasions? Positive, there’s nothing that Sonos can do a couple of unhealthy combine. And there are lots of unhealthy Dolby Atmos mixes. They will’t all be Giles Martin’s tackle the Beatles’ Revolver. However you’ll be engrossed greater than grossed out most of the time. One word: Including the Period 300s as surrounds deactivates Bluetooth and the USB-C port; it’s Wi-Fi streaming solely any longer.

I do know I’ve devoted one million phrases to music, so I’ll simply contact on films briefly (test again later for ideas on the place post-Period 300 Sonos ranks in wi-fi encompass sound methods). I’ve watched a smattering of movies—normal demo fare like Prime Gun: Maverick, Prepared Participant One, Blade Runner 2049, Dune, Child Driver, and John Wick. Effectively, within the phrases of Mad Max: Fury Highway, “Don’t, my buddies, turn into hooked on Atmos. It would grab you, and you’ll resent its absence.” You get, nicely, always unfurling ambiance. Pinpoint cues and disembodied voices. Rigidity and launch. The Period 300 has gone to battle in opposition to the bizarre and emerged victorious.

Sonos Era 300 as rear speakers in a home theater
This isn’t me, nevertheless it might be you. With new Period 300 audio system and your family members, you, too, may be embraced bodily and sonically in a number of dimensions. Courtesy of Sonos

The conclusion

Within the Venn diagram of immediate-immersive-impressive, the Period 300 sits in a roomy overlap. That overlay broadens with two Eras, and it turns into nearer to a single circle when you’ve graduated to an Arc+Sub+Period 300×2 setup. However you don’t want a couple of Period 300 to take pleasure in gratification. On some tracks, you’ll hear extra components fly across the room. Generally you’ll simply hear extra room. All with no room-filling setup. In the event you’re extra interested by simplicity than specs and don’t thoughts the slowly unwinding track distribution system, the Period 300 is dear however a splurge that can repay as artists embrace spatial audio’s full potential.